Missed opportunities were costly as South Johnston fell 4-2 in a varsity baseball contest with visiting Wake Forest in the opening round of the Johnston County Easter Invitational on Saturday.
“We had base runners, we had opportunities,” said South coach Aaron Parnell. “If any of those go our way, the game’s totally different. I think we just got unlucky offensively. We hit some balls good enough and didn’t score.”
Starter Aubrey Pollard was the pitcher of record for the Trojans (6-5). In six innings, he gave up two earned runs on two hits, three walks and a hit batter, with five strikeouts. Drew Moore pitched one inning, yielding no earned runs on three hits, with one strikeout.
“Aubrey threw the ball great,” Parnell said. “We couldn’t ask for more out of him. And Drew came in and competed for us when we needed him.”
Starter Isaac Williams took the win for the Cougars (8-4), giving up one earned run on four hits, two walks and a hit batter, with three strikeouts across five and one-third innings. Cuyler O’Neill pitched one and two-thirds innings, allowing one earned run on one hit and two walks, with four strikeouts.
Jackson Raynor led South’s hitting efforts with two hits, one RBI and one run scored.
Pollard, David Honeycutt and Ben Stafford had one hit apiece. Josh Schindler had one RBI. Kyle Raulerson scored once.
Hogan Stallings had a two-run home run to lead Wake.
South Johnston stranded 10 base runners in the contest, including seven left in scoring position.
“We kept pressure on them,” Parnell said. “Hats off to the kids that pitched for them being able to make pitches in stressful situations. They competed well against guys in scoring position with one out or less than one out and did really well in those situations.”
Travis Voelker led off the top of the second inning with a double and Stallings followed with a towering shot over the center field fence.
South got on the board in the bottom of the fifth when Raulerson drew a walk, advanced on a steal and a ground ball from Jacob Norris and scored on a hit from Raynor.
In the sixth inning, Schindler was hit by a pitch, advanced on a Honeycutt sacrifice and took third on a base hit from Stafford. After a pitching change, O’Neill walked Dalton Benson to load the bases, but struck out the next two batters to end the inning.
In the top of the seventh, Connor Loeffler singled, advanced on a Gage French sacrifice and a wild pitch and scored when Grayson Joyner reached on South’s only error of the game. Joyner took third on a Davis Powell single and scored on a base hit from O’Neill.
In the bottom of the inning, Raynor singled and Moore drew a walk. Both advanced on a wild pitch and Raynor scored on a ground ball from Schindler. But O’Neill struck out the next batter to end the game.
Wake Forest will meet Western Harnett in the second round of the tournament and South Johnston faces Greater Neuse 3-A Conference neighbor Cleveland in the consolation bracket Monday.
“We haven’t seen them yet and I haven’t had a chance to see them play a whole lot,” Parnell said. “I know they played a really competitive, good game earlier (a 6-4 loss to Western Harnett) — very much like this one we just played. I guess we’ll get a sneak peek into what we’re getting into in a couple of weeks (Cleveland is scheduled to be South’s final regular season series).”
JOHNSTON COUNTY EASTER INVITATIONAL
Bunn 19, Smithfield-Selma 2
Clayton 6, Triton 4
Western Harnett 6, Cleveland 4
Wake Forest 4, South Johnston 2
Noon — Smithfield-Selma 11, Triton 6
2:30 p.m. — Cleveland 8, South Johnston 6 (8 innings)
5 p.m. — Bunn 7, Clayton 0
7:30 p.m. — Wake Forest 11, Western Harnett 1 (6 innings)
Noon — South Johnston vs. Triton
2:30 p.m. — Cleveland vs. Smithfield-Selma
5 p.m. — Clayton vs. Western Harnett
7:30 p.m. — Championship, Bunn vs. Wake Forest